10.05.15: Once is Enough

Apparently. I had one session since the last time Kirsten was here, and Storm did well, though I wasn't quite sure of exactly how to progress beyond the 'catching' portion of the round pen exercises and what the 'boomerang' exercise was supposed to look like.
Storm actually managed to stay clean, despite it having rained the night before, and so it did not take long to tack him up. I brought most of the gear down to the arena so we would have some options to work with depending on how he handled things. I brought him to the arena and Kirsten felt that he was reasonably keyed into what was going on, and not near as scattered as last month. I told her that we had only gotten one session, and she decided it would be better to focus on the round pen work for a while to really get Storm focused back on me, and allow it to be his choice so that as a result the riding would be all that much easier. Working at liberty in the round pen gives him the freedom to make the choice to follow directions, and removes the connection of the line, which means that he can not brace against my feel or directions. He can resist, but can not create a brace in his body.
We began with the catching game, and he had a bit of energy to burn off. It was not as big or explosive as it had been the previous sessions, and he came down off the emotions much faster than he had before. He stopped and turned to face me, and the poor guy was accosted immediately by the gnats. I sprayed him with fly spray before we came down to work, but it just doesn't do enough. He stood there very focused in on me, but could not help bobbing his head, shaking, and moving around in an effort to throw off the gnats. He tried so hard to stay focused, it was obvious in his face that he just couldn't stand it. Finally he moved off again, and it only took a few turns before he chose to come back and face me again. He was quickly getting very focused and paying close attention to me. The biggest distraction for him was the bugs, and I think moving was actually a bit of a relief because it keeps the gnats off. He managed ok though, and I was able to send him away at only a walk and he was not getting emotional from the direction from me.
The distance he was going around the circle became shorter and shorter as he became more and more focused. He suddenly gave me the boomerang we were looking for and would return after less than a quarter lap when I sent him away. Kirsten was glad to see that he was offering to so quickly, and with as much respect. He did keep trying to step forward, but it seemed that he only wanted to so that he could get closer to me so I could help swish the bugs away. Once he repeatedly returned right back to me several times in a row, Kirsten asked me to change the game again. Now that he was giving me his attention, and staying focused when standing still, it was time to move to the last round pen exercise which is a 'lunging' type concept. At this point in time specific instructions are introduced incrementally asking the horse for more and more specific details as they build rapport and balance.
Kirsten explained that since he was having trouble going to the right, we should ask him to go to the right. She instructed me to move directly to my left while facing him to "open the door" to the right direction and push from the left. I listened to her explain it, and then began to move to ask for him to go to the right, and he swung directly into the pressure I was putting on him, and I had to move quickly to block him from going left. He spun all the way around and took off to the right as I returned to the center of the round pen and calmly waited for him to settle down again. He quickly dropped down and faced me again standing focused on me. Really, it was just an excuse to not go to the right. I waited for a moment, and then repeated the direction request, stepping to the left and pushing, and again had to move quickly to the fence to block him swinging into my pressure. He tore off again after spinning all the way around before going to the right. I calmly waited for him to settle down and he quickly pulled to a stop facing me again to avoid going to the right.
I repeated the process, giving him a second and then again directing him to the right. This time he spun around fast and took off to the right with a grunt and squeal in protest of the request. I laughed at his emotional outburst, and waited again for him to calm down. He took a much longer time, making several laps at a high rate of speed before he began to think about being able to slow down. He dropped down in gait over a longer period of time and eventually was able to walk to the right, which he didn't allow himself to do on the first few tries. He took his time working down before finally stopping to turn and face again. I gave him a second, and then asked again for him to move off to the right. He still swung into the pressure, but I did not have to block him with as much force and his spin was only at a walk, and he did not have any more emotional response about it. He began to be able to hold the walk, and it was after several minutes of walking to the right that he finally licked and chewed again. Kirsten took note of that, and then instructed me to leave him out at the walk for another five minutes while he continued to integrate the changes that he was making in his body.
Once he had completed the time, she gave me instructions to draw Storm in so that we could stop the game. She had me walk backwards, and just wait for him to come to me. Eventually, he'd have to stop since one way or another he'd reach where I was against the fence. I was almost to the fence when he turned off the circle and stood to face me. She said that this was a good time to play the 'stick to me' game and work on having him focus on me and move with me if I wanted to. At that point it was time to wrap things up anyway, so I brought him out of the arena and we untacked him and sponged him off and turned him out again.

It was unexpected that I would put Tali through her lesson, but it ended up that Anne couldn't make it so she called me to see if I could take care of
Tali for her. I told her I would, so I got myself ready, and tacked her up to get ready to ride. Kirsten was pleased with how she looked, and suggested that I get started riding right away. I decided to at least let her have a little time on the long lines to make sure that she was chilled out enough that I could handle it. I did noticed in the time I spent with her grazing before my lesson started that she seemed to always be standing with her right front foot forward as she grazed. Every time I looked down, that is the position she was in.

We incidentally started on her easy side to the left, and she was much steadier, and it took a lot less effort to keep her balanced on the circle. Going to the right was a different issue. It took a lot more work to keep her steady on the circle, though I was able to be much more effective at reacting to her imbalances quickly and getting her back on track. We left her on the right side for a bit longer to allow her to settle into the work and make some changes before I climbed aboard.
She did well for mounting, and Kirsten set me up to begin working with her. I was much better able to feel when she was flipping the ball from one side to the other. She was not being totally 'honest' on the reins and was evading the contact, but as long as I knew where she was putting the ball, it didn't matter what feel she gave me on the reins. I was beginning to get more efficient at flipping my weight from one side to the other when she would flip the ball over, and I was beginning to instinctually feel where she threw the ball from one moment to the next. I would feel something, switch my balance,
and then ask Kirsten if she just flipped, and she was able to affirm what I felt. We worked to the left for some time allowing her to build some stability in that direction before changing direction to go to the right.

That's when things got difficult! She was being much less honest about where he ball was, and ended up getting stuck with her ball to the right to the inside of the circle. I was sitting on that side to block her drift as best I could, but she was still drifting inward on the circle. I had to remind her to step outward by bumping gently on the outside rein to help draw her back outward on the circle. Then she threw another trick at me by still being stuck to the right, but falling out of the circle to the left. Kirsten helped me get organized because at first I was assuming that she had flipped to the left, when she hadn't. I was having trouble sorting out how to keep her straight, and Kirsten told me to gently apply my outside leg to remind her not to drift out but to keep moving forward. At first she over reacted to the pressure, but as she began to understand and I was able to adjust the amount of pressure I used she became steadier and I could anticipate the areas she would drift and in what direction so that I could make the corrections faster and more effectively.
She has a long way to go, but it was really good steady progress for her. Now the question is how much progress can we make before Kirsten comes back?

Next Page: 10.05.21: Ride Number Four